Ask and you shall receive. At least, that principle is certainly in place when it comes to Rihanna's single "American Oxygen," which was performed in full in Indiana over the weekend and then released on TIDAL on Sunday for the world to enjoy. (Well, the portion of the world that has subscribed to Jay Z's new streaming service. The portion of the world that does not include me.) The song, which is the latest hit off her upcoming studio album, is a patriotic ballad that shows off Rihanna's phenomenal voice just as well as her last offering, "B**** Better Have My Money," did, but is at a tempo more in line with her Kanye West and Paul McCartney collaboration, "FourFive Seconds." Ultimately, all three songs show off sides of Rihanna that make it clear that her new album is going to be one of the best she's ever done — because there's a little bit of everything that makes up the overall unique sound.
But, more than anything, it is the lyrics of "American Oxygen" that will hit you right in the feels. Rihanna gets real with us, opening up about an experience that every American can relate to. She opens up about the pursuit of the American dream, about staring from the bottom to get where she is today, about what this country means to people of all different walks of life. (Thus, it should come as no surprise that the pop star followed up her performance of the song in Indiana by blasting Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.) After all, as "American Oxygen" points out, this country is a place where "[we] can be anything at all."
I say, you see, this is the American Dream
Young girl, hustlin'
On the other side of the ocean
She can be anything at all
I should come see
Just close your eyes and breathe
Her opening verses resonate with me in particular because, much like the pop singer herself, I grew up on the other side of the ocean, immigrating here from Jamaica when I was only 5 years old. But the American dream that Rihanna refers to isn't just something that draws immigrants to the shores of the country in pursuit of a better life; it's the ideal to which many American families, no matter how many generations back they go, aspire. Sadly, many of us never become the Rihannas of the world, but just the hope that we can work for a better life here more easily than we can anywhere else keeps many people going through their nine to five days.
But Rihanna doesn't stop there. In fact, this provides the basis of her entire chorus.
Breathe out, breathe in
Every breath I breathe
Chasin' this American Dream
We sweat for a nickel and a dime
Turn it into an empire
Breathe in, this feeling
American, American oxygen
And yet my favorite moment of the song comes not from the chorus, though it strikes a perfect tone between too-honest and optimistically proud. No, there is a hook that comes midway through the song — a hook that feels more like its own anthem than a simple part of an overall anthem.
This is the new America
We are the new America
Preach, Rihanna. If you want to blast this through your speakers for the rest of the day — just like I am going to do — watch her perform it in Indiana below.